In Search of an Historic King Arthur, pt.1


Part One

In Search of an Historic King Arthur, pt.1

Historical Arthur Vs. The Arthur Tradition, Part One

After the withdrawl of the Romans in the 5th and 6th centuries there was a considerable immigration of Celts from Britain (the Britons most notably), who took refuge among their continental kinsman from the Angle and Saxon invasion. Till then the rural population had been mostly pagan (as was most of Britain); but from that point onward, for 300 years Breton history and tradition are largely occupied with of the records and legends of the Celtic missionaries from Britain and Ireland, who gradually converted the whole country and gave their names to towns and villages (e.g., St. Malo, St. Brieuc, St.Tugdual and St. Pol-de-Leon).

The 5th and 6th Century, the Britons and Anglo-Saxons

The Anglo-Saxons wars in Britain were part of a broader conflict across north-west Europe. In France, the Romano-Gauls (Roman and Celtic Gauls allies) had long protected the coasts of Brittany against Saxon pirates with their river-mouth forts. During the fifth century, the Romano-Gallic warlords were joined by British immigrants. These were the cream of Romano-British aristocracy from Cornwall: some fleeing before Irish (Scots) raiders, others hoping for closer associations with Imperial Roman culture. Allied sometimes with the Franks of France, it was this Romano-Gallo-British amalgam -- the BRETONS -- who fought most ferociously against the Saxons of the North Sea and the Goths settled in Central France, and then, in later centuries, when the Franks had established themselves as a separate kingdom, it was the Bretons who maintained Brittany as an independent Celtic state against the Merovingian and Carolingian dynasties.

Celtic Brittany was divided into a number of smaller lordships, upon which the Merovingians and the first Carolingians tried without great success to impose their authority. The line of the Carolingians would go on to produce the most important of all early medieval rulers -- Charlemagne. But the Celtic Bretons, as tough and proud as their British and Irish counterparts, would continue to resist the powerful emerging Frankish Kingdoms.

In the sixth century, Gregory of Tours records their damaging raids on the cities of Nantes and Rennes. Two hundred years later, the Bretons were still resisting and Charlemagne had to devote an entire campaign to their conquest. Even then this proved fragile and during his reign they were in constant rebellion.

Back in the fifth century, the security of the Bretons depended on the efforts of independent Romano-Gallic warlords like Ecdicius. With only his private income to fund him and no assistance from other magnates, Ecdicuis gathered together a small force of horse-warriors. He then set about ambushing the local plundering expeditions of the Goths of central France. So hard did the Gallic horsemen harass the Goth raiders that, according to the account of Sidonius, the bandits had no time to retrieve threir dead. Instead the raiders (Goths) preferred to cut the heads off their comrades so that at least the Gallic Ecdicius would not know how many Goths he had slain by the hairstyles of corpses. When this private band of man-hunters relieved the town of Clermont from the Goth bandits, Ecdicius was received rapturously by the townspeople.

The Emergence of a Celtic legend : Arthur

These Gallic Guerilla actions took place around 471 A.D. and may well have been inspired by stories of the successful resistance of the Britons in Britain, led by Ambrosius Aurelianus. Ten years earlier, Ambrosius had commanded a similar task force of horse-warriors against the Saxons in Britain. Raised from the Romano-Celtic estates of the West Country and Wales, these swift-moving, professional, largely aristocratic horsemen hammered the Saxons in a series of confrontations. The Celtic warriors called each other Combrogi -- "fellow countrymen", a word probably derived from the Latin "cives". It is the origin of "Cymry" and "Cumbri", names still used by the Welsh and North-west British to denote their Celtic separateness from the Germanic English. For a hundred years, the British Celts and Saxons fought their border wars. At sometime during the conflict Ambrosius died. He was replaced by an equally competent warlord, a major Romano-British Celtic land-owner and expert leader of horsemen: Arthur.

Chapter Two of this essay, The Breton and British Celts, will resume shortly, with a look at the legendary Arthur. He may well have been real it appears, and if he was - he was a Celt.

Before we begin our historic look at Arthur and his times, it is important to understand the difference between Arthurian Tradition (cumulative legend) and historic Arthur.

For the most part, Arthur is still shrouded in mystery and that mystery seems to add voraciously to that hugh amount of traditional legend. In this essay, we shall only be looking at Arthur, was he real?; was he one man or a combination of many? Or are there other explanations? But first, the Arthurian Tradition, so very important throughout medieval history both as story and inspiration, needs to be considered.

The Tradition (Legends)

Tales of high adventure, magic, war, chivalry and romance are the stuff of Arthurian tradition. From an intricately woven fabric of Celtic fact, myth, legend and storytelling, Arthur and his knights come down to us over the centuries in an almost surreal but believable way.

Tales of Arthur soon led to tales of his companions, real or not, they became part of the Arthurian tradition as we know it today. Merlin, Tristan, Guinevere, Lancelot, Galahad and Percival are familiar names to all fans of Arthurian legends.

There is possibly more written about Arthur and his adventures than any other single series except, of course, for the Bible. It transcended languages and borders and the Arthur stories spread from Celtic Briton to all of Britain, and from there to all of Europe. Arthur was even known in Arabia and the East.

Arthur stories helped to define a new way of thinking in Europe, a code of chivalry, by which to live and conduct oneself with honour and valour. Women were now often treated more as ladies, not mere possessions as had sometimes been the case (and would be again) in past centuries. The ideal Christian Knight, fighting against a pagan savage was born with Arthur, and this helped to inspire such noble intentions as the Crusades. Although one can easily argue that the Crusades were worse than any savagery ever committed, it was the ideal of chivalry and a 'holy cause' that changed, not man's methods of warfare or his inhumanity to his fellow man.

Arthur and his knights, the round table at which men of honour met as equals under a brlliant king to devote their lives to bettering themselves and their religious convictions were created, and nurtured, in the monumental amount of Arthurian literature in the Middle Ages. Writers immortalised Arthur and his men, even if it was, and is, more fiction than fact.

Geoffery of Monmouth wrote the first set of "histories" of Britain in which he set the standard for later writers to embellish the tales of Arthur. Monmouth did much embellishing himself. Later, others helped to define the tradition of Arthur. Cumulatively, they set the standard by which much of modern adventure, romance and fantasy is still based.

The effect of the incredible tales cannot truly be measured, but there contribution to human development, especially amongst the noble and kingly classes is undeniable, and powerful. English King's Henry II, Edward I, Henry VIII and even James VI and I all resurrected the legends, in one form or another, to inspire themsleves and their courts.

Above all, the Arthur tradition is more than mere stories. Contained within the legends and tales are all of humankind's emotions and creativity that we, as humans, need to fulfill our souls.

But it must also be remembered that the tales and legends of Arthur can readily be found at any bookstore and that this history will strive to look harder to discover the historic Arthur, not the legendary one.

Arthur: A Celtic Heritage

The most important thing I want to stress in this look at historic Arthur, is that he was a Celt, not English.

He is a Celt by tradition -- and by history. Often, people outside of Britain (and some inside) tend to see "Arthur" as 'English' rather than as he should be properly seen -- as a Briton, of Celtic stock. He is a Celtic hero and it is as a Celt and thus part of the Celtic world that he should be viewed. Writers have often altered or shaped Arthur, transformed him over the ages, sometimes it is difficult to remember that he was a Celt to begin with -- as text's such as Mallory's make him have a decidedly English tinge, and De Troyes's French additions only confuse who the real Arthur probably was. We should never allow ourselves to forget that Arthur and his real battles and life, including the later tradition, were a product of a Celtic society, and that this point of origin continued to be felt long after Arthur was recognised as the 'supreme Christian Knight and King'.

Arthur's historical origins are themselves clouded in mist by the volumes of myth and legend. According to the legends again, he was the son of King Uther Pendragon, and the Lady Igraine of Cornwall, and that his birth was made possible by Merlin's deceptive magical arts. History allows Arthur no such legendary heritage. It grants him no known parents, no wizard friend and no band of shining knights. But what we are about to look at, first in background, is nearly as remarkable.

The Arthurian Tradition (legend), however wide-ranging in its vagaries, is rooted in Arthurian fact. The legend is unique, and so is the fact. Britain, alone among the lands of the Roman Empire, achieved independence -- despite failure of uprisings such as that of Boadicea/Boudicca in 60 A.D. -- before the northen barbarians (Germanic Tribes) poured in, and put up a fight against them. It was a very long and protracted war, at one stage apparently successful. Between Christian Roman Britain (Celtic Britons, Welsh, Scots, Picts, Cornish, etc.) and pagan Anglo-Saxon England there is an interregnum, which is not the chaos most historians once imagined, but a creative epoch with a character of its own. A Celtic character, and a Celtic resistance. Perhaps even a Celtic Twilight of their once Golden age. This rally of Celtic people, in some degree Romanised and Christianised, is the reality of Arthur's Britain. It occurs in a dark age, with few records and a mysterious gap in British history. Bringing some light to the darkness is the purpose of this historical series about Arthur.

Background: Sub-Roman Britain
Early Roman Britain:

Arthur's story begins in the middle of the fourth century A.D. "Britannia", divided into four provinces, stretched from beyond the channel up to Hadrian's Wall in Scotland, with a wild and debatable zone beyond. The people on the Island were Celts, related to the Gauls and the Irish.

The Romans had been in Britain for centuries now, their laws generally accepted and a state of "Pax Romana" existed. At the higher ends of the social ladder, the ruling 'Romans' and subject 'Britons' were blurred and were often indistinguishible. Britons had adopted Latin, Roman laws and customs, dress and warfare. They were a Celtic people, but had, for the most part become thoroughly Romanised. Only in Wales and even moreso in Caledonia (Scottish Highlands) were Roman ways still foreign.

The vast majority of British people, including their Celtic descendants, now generically known as "Britons", were citizens of the Roman Empire and obtained a status we now often call Romano-Celtic.

But that Celtic way of life kept surfacing and for some decades, it quietly reasserted itself on their Celtic consciousness, keeping them, in some ways, from being completely Romanised. They retained their Celtic components, whether they were Welsh, Britons, Cornish or Celts from the south of Britain. In some areas, the Britons built expensive Roman villas with central heating and comfort. Britain was nearer to self-suffiency in the fourth century than it had been before, and it retained much of its native flavour in this manner.

Trade was booming. Exports of grain, iron, coal, hides, hunting dogs and even slaves were regularly traded to the farthest corners of the Empire and beyond.

Romanised Christianity in Britain

Rescued from persecution by Emperor Constantine, Christianity had a special hold on Celtic Britain. It was the main faith of all the Roman world by this time, but it had been practised in Britain for many years before. The educated Romano-Celtic class and their large households and dependents insured it's survival in the upper classes whilst the peasant and tribal Celtic people mixed the Christianity with paganism, and some tribal peoples were still completely pagan. This would play a major role in the epic struggle of Celtic Christians versus pagan invaders in the next century.


For Britons, the imperial ways began to come crashing down in 367 AD. The island was suddenly attacked by three barbaric nations at one time. From across the North sea, after a long lull, came the Saxons. Fierce and war-like, these Teutonic warriors came in waves via boats carrying short swords, bows, lances and round wooden shields. Their origin was in Schleswig-Holstein, but they'd been advancing along the German coast. In the North, wild Picts (Caledonians) scrambled past Roman garrisons in night raids and over the wall. They were described as bearded, often as red-haired and tatooed with intricate symbols on their naked bodies and blue woad. They were generally unarmoured, indeed often naked, and the intricate symbols painted on them might have been wards of magical protection to the Picts (which may mean 'Painted ones'). They were armed with slings, spears and captured Roman weapons such as swords. In the West, the British shores were assualted by hordes of Irish tribes whom the Romans called "Scots", after one of their chief groups which had only begun to settle in Western Caledonia. They sailed in hide-covered curraghs and blew terrifying blasts on enormous curled war-horns, not unlike the ancient Iceni tribe had when led by Boadicea in 60 AD. (Now on this web site).

To add to the problems of the beseiged Britons, the Roman Empire began a gradual but steady withdrawl of Roman troops to the continent (originally under orders of Magnus Maximus), for protection of more vital parts of the Roman Empire, which was experiencing large Germanic tribal invasions of its own. Tribes such as the Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Vandals, Lombards, Franks and other Germanic and Eastern barbarian tribes, had Rome pulling all its resources inward to the heart of the Western Empire -- Rome -- for self-preservation. At the time the Picts, Anglo-Saxons, and Irish-Scots were raiding the British Isles, the Romans in Rome felt Britain was expendable. So, from 383 to 407 A.D., the whole of the Roman forces were removed, leaving the Britons to fend for themsleves.

But just who were these invaders? In the next section, part 3 of Breton and British Celts: Arthur, we shall take a brief look at the barbarian invaders of Britain: Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Frisians, Picts, and the Irish Scots.

ARTHUR, Chapter Two (continued)
The Pagan English

The Angles, Saxons and Jutes (along with the Frisians and others) which invaded the British Isles, are believed to have come from different areas of Northwest Europe: the Saxons from northern Germany and Holland; the Angles from the south of the Danish peninsula, (an area still known as Angeln exists); and the Jutes from Jutland.

Traditionally and cumulatively, they were known or came to be known as just 'Anglo-Saxons' as these Germanic tribes had become one basic people over time.

They came to Britain for several reasons. For one, they had been brought in by Romans and late Romano-Celtic Society as warriors and mercenaries to help in either defensive or offensive battles with other British rivals, or against the invading Picts, Welsh and Irish-Scot raiders.

The major reason, however, was the lure of easy plunder and land. Germanic tribes themselves, were being pushed out of their traditional homelands by other rival and powerful Germanic tribes. Also, at this time, the 'Migration Period', there were similar movements of tribes taking place throughout Europe, and some have postulated that the Angles, Saxons, Frisians and possibly even the more independent Jutes, were by this date already identified with each other enough to form an 'Anglo-Saxon' people of mixed stock but of similar backgrounds. The invaders are generically referred to as Anglo-Saxons even if in some areas they were more Angle than Saxon or vice versa.

Recent excavations indicate the date of their arrival may have been in the 5th century, possibly as mercenaries, which is later than once thought. They were brought, most likely, to fight in Romano-British civil wars which followed after the withdrawl of the Roman armies. Also, they seem to have been brought to defend the island from Pictish and Irish raiders. This is close to the traditional date given by Gildas and Bede, the former an irascible and argumentative monk who wrote circa 545 A.D. He wrote a diatribe against the rulers of Britain of his day in what is knwon as "liber querulus" or 'Complaining Book'. It is full of rhetoric, is very cryptic in places and is frequently wrong. He often seems unhappy with the native Britons and calls them restless and unassimilable under Roman rule. Clearly he gives is a perspective from a Romano-British viewpoint from the eyes of a literate, if bias, cleric of Roman sympathies.

It seems the first Anglo-Saxons to reach Britain came by invitation, possibly even before the Roman collapse. They arrived in War-bands or mercenaries, with their 'chiefs' to defend some British areas from attacks by Irish-Scots, Picts and the Continent. This only seemed to encourage the Anglo-Saxons as they began to send word back to their homelands that Britain might be easy pickings. In time, larger-scale Anglo-Saxon invasions followed, this time without invitation.

High King Vortigern and Hengist and Horsa

The most important invasions by these mercenaries turned colonists were circa 440-460 A.D. Legendary leaders such as the Saxon brothers Hengist and Horsa, were employed originally by High King Vortigern 'the Thin' in the south-east to repel the Picts and Scots, but soon rebelled against their British (Britons) employers, and began to establish their own petty kingdoms.

The Vortigern Legend

Like so many characters in Arthurian Tradition, Vortigern is indeed based on a real man, but his historic impact has been tinged with so much legend that it's necessary to retell part of that legend.

Historic Vortigern seems to have been a minor king who makes a military movement for power amongst the chaos of invasion. According to history, he is responsible for bringing in the Saxons (including the powerful Saxon brothers Hengist and Horsa) both to fight the Picts and Scots, as well as fight Vortigern's own British enemies to increase his power and rule. Bede said Vortigern married Rowena, daughter of the Saxon brother Hengist, and it would eventually lead to his downfall.

The legend goes on to state that Vortigern was popular for a short time, but as more Saxon invaders arrived and began settling large areas of land, he begins to lose that popularity. Eventually, sons of a former High King of Britain return from exile at the head of an army and Vortigern is forced to flee to Wales, where he plans to build a fortress. The legend brings into the story a mysterious character originally identified as 'Myrddin'. Merlin appears, historically at least, to have been created by Geoffery of Monmouth who wrote one of the first set of "histories" of Arthur and Britain, even if highly unreliable historically. Although probably invented by Monmouth, Merlin is not without a historical connection, even if remote. There was a northern British (many claim he was Pictish) bard named Myrddin, whose name Monmouth used, changing it to Merlin. Other accounts tell of a historic Merlin as a Pictish tribal leader whose pagan tribe was wiped out by a newly Christianised rival Pictish tribe. Only Merlin, it is said, survived -- he went insane and wandered the forests casting spells and talking to spirits and animals.

So, as you can see it is obviously a very murky area historically.

According to Monmouth again, Merlin (Myrddin) lived around the year 573, and was somehow involved in a battle near Carlisle. (It could be that Pictish battle mentioned in the legends). But if he actually ever met a 'true' Arthur, he would have been a boy and Arthur in advanced age. Even apart from magic, his legendary role is historically impossible.

However, he figures prominently in the Vortigern legend and therefore shall be included here.

When Vortigern fled to Wales to build his stronghold, he chose a site quite unfortunate. Every night, all the progress made by his workmen was undone by rumblings and shaking under the ground, thus collapsing the days work. Vortigern somehow learns from his advisors, possibly Druids, that he needs the blood of a fatherless child, spilled on the stones of the stronghold. This, they tell him, will ensure the completion of the fortress. A search begins for this child. Vortigerns's men find young Merlin at Carmarthen (according to Monmouth this is 'Caer Myrddin', Merlin's town or fortress). Again, according to the legend, Merlin is the son of a Welsh princess but an unknown father. They are brought before Vortigern. The princess tells a wild story about being visited by a golden being, and that she is devout and pure. She further explains that this golden being fathered the child Merlin. Vortigern doesn't buy this story, but Merlin speaks out in defence of his mother, and challenges Vortigern's wise men and Druids to explain the real reason the tower will not stand.

Vortigern's men cannot explain so Merlin tells them. He tells Vortigern there is a pool beneath the hilltop and that inside it is a stone coffer containing two dragons: one red and the other white, who battle every night, thus causing the workmen's building to collapse. Vortigern has his workers dig into the hill and discovers Merlin to be correct (for the legend). Then Merlins explains that the red dragon symbolises Britain and the white one the Saxons. He also predicts, that in time, the white will overcome the red dragon.

To this day, the red dragon is the national symbol of Wales.

Merlin, again according to the legend, goes into a trance and prophesies the future; foretelling the coming of Arthur, "the Boar of Cornwall", which will bring relief from the Saxon invaders, and warns Vortigern of his forthcoming death. Thus the legend of Merlin is born through the legend of Vortigern.

History? Not likely. In fact, as we have already determined, if there was indeed a Merlin, he was based on Myrddin, and he lived long after Arthur, not before. But the legend shows the power of the Arthur Tradition. Wales got the Red Dragon as their symbol; the two 'dragons' did collide in the form of native British Celts aganist invading pagan Anglo-Saxons, and indeed the Anglo-Saxons did win the long struggle for dominance. A legend is born.

Anglo-Saxons Take Control

Although the power and number of the Saxons (Sassenachs) was overwhelming, the native populations put up a considerable resistance to the expansion of these Teutonic kingdoms. This begins, particularly under Vortigern's successor as 'High King' of the Britons. The military leader (who for years was thought to have been the real Arthur), was Ambrosius Aurelanius. We shall take a look at Aurelanius later, first we must understand these different races now occupying and vying for the British Isles.

Angles and Saxons had, of course, been raiding Britain since the third century, and the Saxon Shore system of forts was named after the menace it faced from these pagan warriors, not from the men who named it.

So, what we have for a variety of reasons, is a continuing influx of Germanic Anglo-Saxon warriors from Europe conquering and settling large areas of Britian. A large portion of land fell into the possession of the Anglo-Saxons hands following the "Saxon Revolt" of the mid-fifth century.

The Anglo-Saxon mercenaries took over at this point. Their war and conquest was in many places bloody; but elsewhere they settled either as neighbours to the Celtic population, or as a newly dominant minority which had driven out the Romano-British aristocracy. It varied much from place to place and time.

The stage was set for more Celtic and Anglo-Saxon confrontations, so we will now take a brief look at the main Celts other than the Britons already described.

The Celts of Arthur's Britain

A large portion of the following information on the early Welsh, Irish, Scots and Picts during Arthur's time was taken from several primary sources, most notably "The Anglo-Saxon Wars" by Dr. David Nicolle. Also used for this section is John Morris's "Age of Arthur" and Geoffrey Ashe's "Arthur's Britain". Over two dozen secondary sources are also in use. Anyone seriously interested in more detailed history of "Arthur's Time" should consider purchasing one of the above-mentioned books, especially "The Age of Arthur" - Early British history from 350-650 A.D., by J. Morris.

The Early Welsh

The Celtic culture which survived in western Britain following the disasters of the early 7th century was no longer Romano-British, though it did retain many elements from earlier days. It was now the time of the "Cymri" or, to use the Anglo-Saxon word for 'foreigner', of the Welsh. It is interesting that the Saxons would have considered the Welsh as foreigners since it was the Anglo-Saxons themselves as foreign conquerors and occupiers. But it does show the mind-set of the times: all sides claimed all of Britain.

With very few exceptions the Celtic British resistance survived in hilly country, the most fertile lowlands having fallen to the invaders. The Welsh or Cymru or Cymbrogi (the companions) took to the mountains of Wales and henceforward became known as "Welsh". Previously they had been Britons, Silures and Romano-Celtic people with several identities. Now, defeated and driven from the lower lands, they banded together, more or less, to become one people with a common heritage.

Christianity had previously been strongest in the south-east, the Vale of York and around the Solway Firth. A few small Christian communities may have survived in the east, in Frankish-influenced Kent and in London. Some writers and historians have painted this time a time of "Celtic Twilight" barely hanging on to existence in the west countries. This isn't completely true. The Celtic kingdoms kept in contact with the Christian Mediterranean. Syrian and later perhaps Muslim Andalusian traders still arrived via the Atlantic and Straits of Gibralter. From this route came those early ideals of some of the early Egyptian monks who were models for Celtic monasticism, as well as Greek wines, Sicilian olive oil and tableware from Antioch and Constantinople. In return the Cornish exported tin, the Welsh perhaps other metals, and the Irish their famous hunting dogs.

The military organisation of the Welsh kingdoms is reflected in the slightly later Laws of Hywel Dda. (See link for info on Dda). In general, a King took 1/3 of the booty, and also received taxes to support his men. Armies were led either by the king or a family member. Fighting was the duty only of freemen, whilst bondsmen supplied pack-horses, servants or axes to construct strongholds.

Defence was based upon the 'caer', which normally was a fortified site. Warriors kept fit by wrestling, throwing iron bars and racing up and down the many hills. About this time there was a shift for armies to the smaller, more cavalry oriented style. All except in Wales, where infantry predominated.

The other British areas were divided into a multitude of states, the most important being Strathclyde around modern Glasgow, Rheged around Carlisle, Elmet around Leeds, Gwynedd in north Wales and Powys on the Welsh borders. Southern Wales was another story altogether. It was a confusing patchwork of possibly eight competing kingdoms, while in Cornwall and Devon the "West Welsh" of Dumnonia clung to their independence.

Gwynedd led the majority of British resistance to the Saxons for years until it's greatest leader, CadWallon, fell on the field of Hexham in 634 A.D. In the north, Strathclyde led the struggle in many epic battles against Northumbria. The British kingdom of Gododdin, heir to the ancient Votadini tribe, probably had its stronghold at Stirling, Edinburgh and Traprain Law. Gododdin was soon crushed by the Angles of Northumbria, however, leaving Strathclyde to fight on from its long-occupied capital at Dumbarton Rock. Further south, the Mote of Mark was fortified in the 6th century as a major centre of resistance for Rheged-Cumbria. In the late 8th and 9th centuries, Northumbria had a decline in power which led to a revival of Strathclyde and Rheged-Cumbria, so that the British or 'North Welsh' held sway from Loch Lomond to the North Riding of Yorkshire.

Surrounded by foes, these Celtic British areas were finally swallowed by the rising Celtic Kingdom of Scotland in the 11th century, known previously as Alban.

The Gododdin has a particular importance to Scots and the Arthur connection. Since this area centered around Edinburgh, it has recently become a centre of attention as "Arthur's true home", but as in most cases, it lacks the real evidence other than compelling circumstantial, to prove that claim. No doubt, Arthur is claimed by all of Britain's towns and villages in one capacity or another. The warriors of this time, the Gododdin, Strathclyde and Rheged-Cumbria, were mostly spear or javelin-armed horsemen who lived an almost nomadic life of raising cattle.

Yet their apparently primitive society was able to erect major earthworks in an effort to contain Northumbrian (Angles) expansion, whilst in Carlisle such civic amenities as the old Roman aqueduct were kept in working order until the late 7th century.

Far to the south in Dumnonia a mixture of Roman and Celtic tradition lay behind the territorial and military system of 'trigg' or 'tryger'. This term came from the Latin tri 'triple' and according to Dr. Nicolle, also from the proto-Celtic 'corio' or army. It seems that these areas contained three keverang 'military gatherings' which in turn included approximately 100 farmsteads, each presumably supplying one fighting man.

Over time, the West Welsh were forced back to the unbridged river Tamar, but they continued to fight on until 814 AD from such fortified natural strongholds as Castle an-Din, Castle Dor and Tintagel. Here were the castles of such leaders as Drustans and his father Cvnomori, who were probably the real people behind the later medieval romantic heroes Tristan, his father King Mark and their fair lady Iseult.

The main thrust of Welsh, Cornish and other Celtic warfare of this time was an infantry of spear-armed soldiers, perhaps with small swords of the Irish type. These swords were often called "leaf-bladed" for their wide blades and were a bit over two feet in length and very heavy for such a short sword. Some Celts, including the Welsh, also used poisoned javelins, and there was some archery, mostly with the flat-bow. This short, broad and very powerful weapon was small in size and thus suitable for fighting in the close conditions of rocky western Britian.

In the next chapter of "Arthur, Man or Legend", we will look briefly at the Irish and Scots as well as the mysterious northern Picts. How Arthur figues into all of this will also be examined. 'Ambrosius and Arthur', a look at two Celtic resistance leaders of a struggling and evolving Celtic world and will continue the historic look at Arthur. Did Arthur really exist? Next: Who were the Scots, Picts, and other Britons? In the next two chapters we will examine the evidence.

Next chapter not forthcoming due to lack of information and time. I do apologize, but hope you learned much about the Celts, legendary Arthur, and perhaps a real Celtic one is not out of the question.

İSkye-Net, R. Gunn, 1995/2009

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